Athlete Profile: Michael Oher

Michael Oher is a big man. At 6’5” and 309 pounds that would seem rather obvious, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. Oher’s got quite a back story, a fact that hasn’t been lost on we in the profession of sports writing. A novel concerning his life leading up to his college career has not only been already released, but is in the works for becoming a feature film. While the material remains accurate, it seems reports of Oher’s intelligence (according to Oher) were exaggerated. But no worries, like I said, he’s a big guy.

And what is this life that resulted in a bestseller? OK, I’m not going into too much detail here, it’s been repeated in other places ad nauseam and I don’t want to throw up on my keyboard. Oher grew up more or less homeless, the son of a crack addict and a father who was never there. Roaming through schools, forgotten on holidays and birthdays, it wasn’t until he was taken in by the Tuohy family at 16 that things truly started to turn around for him. Living with the affluent Memphis family helped grant him the stability and backing needed to get him into a position to rise to national attention.

As if all that wasn’t enough to leave a man a bit bitter, he learned that his last name was, in fact, not his last name at all. While trying to obtain a drivers license, Oher learned that government records retained the name of Michael Williams, his biological father’s surname. A bit of a surprise for anybody I must say. Oher took it in stride, getting a license as Michael Williams for a time before eventually changing his legal name to Oher (Oher is from his mother’s side btw).

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Michael Oher unlikely to fall past top 10

The National Football Post is reporting that Ole’ Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher might not slip past the 49ers at No. 10 in next week’s NFL draft.

Granted, the National Football Post also said last week that Tony Gonzalez had cleaned out his locker in Kansas City and was heading to Atlanta via a trade, but I agree with their projection on Oher, who I have going to Cincinnati at No. 7 in each of my last two mocks.

Oher arguably doesn’t have the upside of Baylor’s Jason Smith or even the talent of knucklehead Andre Smith of Alabama. But he flashed outstanding athleticism in college and he has great size at 6’4”, 309 pounds. The only problem is that he uses his strength too much instead of relying on having solid footwork, but a good coaching staff will recognize that and make it a top priority for Oher to work on this summer.

One of the arguments I keep hearing from draft followers is that Oher is slated to go picks 15-20 and that any team that selects him in the top 10 would be reaching. But I’ll say the same thing here as I did in my mock write up on Oher – if he turns out to be a Pro Bowler in two to three years, nobody is going to look back and say, “Well, the Bengals reached for him.”

If the guy can play, he can play, and Michael Oher can play. He’s a lower risk than Andre Smith and he’s worth a long look from teams like the Bengals, Raiders and 49ers, all teams desperate for offensive tackles.

Offseason Blueprint: Jacksonville Jaguars

Notable Free Agents: Mike Peterson, LB; Brad Meester, C; Khalif Barnes, OT; Reggie Williams, WR; Chris Naeole, G; Joe Zelenka, TE.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $15,500,000

Draft Order: 8

Top Needs: OL, CB, LB, WR, RB.

Offseason Outlook: Let the cleansing process begin. The Jaguars have already released long-time veteran running back Fred Taylor, 2008 free agent bust Jerry Porter and disappointing cornerback Drayton Florence. There’s also little to no chance the team makes a play to re-sign middle linebacker Mike Patterson, who was at odds with head coach Jack Del Rio for the better part of the ‘08 season.

The team also made Gene Smith in charge of personnel decisions and Del Rio is expected to take over the defensive playcalls next year, which should turn out to be two sound moves.

In terms of personnel, the team needs to address the offensive line first and foremost and then go from there. The O-line was ransacked with injuries last season, not to mention heartbreak when Richard Collier suffered 14 gunshot wounds in early September, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The Jags don’t have to reinvent the wheel because they’re already got the makings of a competitive team. But they need to regroup and rebuild through the draft and a good start would be to get their hands on one of the top offensive tackle prospects that will be available in the top 10.

Even though his talent is unquestioned, Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith is proving with each passing day that he may be too much of a risk to be taken with the No. 8 overall pick. But Virginia’s Eugene Monrore, Baylor’s Jason Smith or Ole Miss’s Michael Oher could be available and could replace Khalif Barnes at left tackle, who is expected to depart via free agency.

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